The Hairy Hidden Hand of the DOJSteven Lieberman
Dangers of Registration
Some of my favorite emails go something like this:
“A client needs to talk with you ASAP! SWAT team showed up at his house and took his rifle after he tried to register it! Call him now!!!”
Before we get into the weeds on this one, let me re-iterate my feeling about “Assault Weapon” registration:
The other day, I received a lovely poster in the mail, courtesy of the California Dept. of Justice. It was an encouragement to register “assault rifles” and they were asking us to hang it prominently and proudly in our lobby for all to see.
I promptly folded it back up and put it in the DOJ file. If I were ever to post that, I would be guilty of legal malpractice. Self registration is… in my opinion, a recipe for disaster and… a Fifth amendment violation to boot. That being said, there are still those that will want to register…. and they will do so without the advise of legal counsel. To those that fall into this category, the following is a cautionary tale.
I contacted the individual on the email. He had attempted to register his weapon with the Dept. of Justice, and for his trouble, he had a contingent of State Agents from DOJ visit him at his home. They asked to see said rifle, and when he produced it, they promptly confiscated it and left him with little more than a receipt. Unaware of the law, the client had built his AR-15 with a standard magazine release and had photographed it and sent it up to DOJ. He was informed by the agents that the magazine release was illegal.
He was confused.
This was his first AR that he had built, and he had bought the parts from a local dealer. The standard magazine release was the item that came with the kit. In his mind, since he was buying all of the “stuff” here in California, it must be… per se… legal.
He had already lawyered up, so there was little for me to do assist him. I was curious though to hear DOJ’s reasoning for their “raid” and fortunately, the individual was more than happy to give me the phone number for the lead DOJ agent.
(If you have arrived here from our newsletter, continue reading here:)
After talking to DOJ, I learned there was a little more to the story.
Evidentially, the individual in question had purchased the stripped lower and the build kit this year. (Not prior to January 1, 2017). He manufactured the rifle and then attempted to register it via the DOJ website.
When it would not take his information, he simply altered the date of acquisition to prior to January 1. With the amended date, the website now processed his application. In his mind, he simply thought the website was broken. He had no idea that what he was doing was prohibited as an application of law.
When DOJ got a hold of the application, they compared the acquisition date to the DROS date and saw the discrepancy. They had no idea that it had a standard magazine release on the rifle (as per the agents comments, being able to identify the magazine release via a photograph is virtually impossible).
DOJ had really no idea that the weapon possessed a traditional magazine release until the individual went to his safe and handed it over to the DOJ agents.
They explained what was wrong with the rifle, and told him they would need to confiscate it, but they did not arrest him.
The lead DOJ agent wanted to see if he could allow the individual to simply remove the upper from the lower thereby taking it out of the assault weapon category. His handler in Sacramento told him no… that would be tantamount to a destruction of evidence.
Again, the agent stated that he could tell the individual was not a criminal. He was not someone that had a nefarious intent. He was an older man that was as confused by the registration process as many law enforcement officers are.
The moral of the story?
If you feel you absolutely must register your AR, do so only with the advise of counsel. The ramifications are simply too great. This may seem self serving coming from a lawyer, but it is well worth the time and cost. The individual in question is now out a couple of thousand dollars worth of rifle, and it is doubtful he will ever get it back. (It is not inconceivable that we might be able to get the non regulated portions returned, but that might literally take a few years.)
Want to save the legal fees?
Follow my original advise, and keep the rifle featureless or make it a fixed magazine.
It sucks comrade… but such is life here in the Collective.